November 22, 2013
Kenyan protesters furious over parliamentary bills they say risk
undermining democracy marched through the streets of the capital on
Thursday, presenting a petition of several thousand names to lawmakers.
Last month, MPs pushed through a hugely controversial bill that could
see journalists and media outlets policed by a special quasi-government
body and slapped with huge fines or potentially even forced out of
business if they violate a code of conduct.
Parliament has also set its sights on NGOs, drawing up a law that
would place them under de facto government management and, notably,
restrict their ability to receive funds from overseas donors – a key
source of cash for many rights groups and anti-corruption watchdogs.
“We will lose everything we fought for for the last 20 years,” said
Morris Odhiambo, president of the National Civil Society Congress
“Both the media and NGOs have been at the centre of this fight… Many
people still fear the system, even if there’s a constitution that
protects their rights.”
If the bills are signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta,
protesters said that some of the poorest areas would be left without
basic support, using Nairobi’s crowded slum districts of Mathare and
Kibera as examples.
“Who built the toilets in Mathare? NGOs. Who built the toilets in Kibera? NGOs,” the crowd of around a hundred chanted.
“Say no to government control on media and NGOs,” one placard read.
Demonstrators handed over the petition to officials at parliament,
where members of Kenya’s main opposition party, the Orange Democratic
Movement (ODM), came out to welcome the crowd.
“Many of our constituencies receive critical help from NGOs – voting
against NGOs is like voting against my constituency,” said MP John
“A lot of Kenyan lives are dependent on NGOs… if we kill NGOs, we kill a lot of Kenyans,” said fellow MP Gladys Wanga.